Just Read… Dead Lands, by Lloyd Otis


Even though I have a signed copy of this from Lloyd’s launch in London, last October, I actually listened to the audio version of Dead Lands, ably read by ‎Ben Onwukwe. Here’s what I thought.

Dead Lands Launch

When a woman’s body is found, a special team is called in to investigate, and prime suspect Alex Troy is arrested for the murder. Desperate to remain a free man, Troy protests his innocence but refuses to use his alibi. Trying to protect the woman he loves becomes a dangerous game – questions are asked, and suspicions deepen.

When the prime suspect completes a daring escape from custody, DI Breck and DS Kearns begin the hunt. Breck wants out of the force while Kearns has her own agenda and seeks revenge – and a right-wing march provides an explosive backdrop to their hunt for Troy.

Set in the 1970s, Lloyd reminds us with Dead Lands that policing back then was very different to today, with no CCTV, no mobile phones, oh, and Austin Allegros!

DI Arlo Breck is faced with investigating the brutal murder of investment firm employee, Janet Maskell, but some things don’t seem to add up. And just who is Alex Troy? Murderer? Innocent man? And is there more than one of him? Breck has a challenge on his hands to solve this case, and it seems that not everyone on the force is there to help him. Or tell him the truth.

Dead Lands, published by Urbane Publications, is an accomplished debut. There are a number of strands smoothly woven through the novel, against a backdrop of borderline police corruption and racial tension.

I look forward to more outings for DI Arlo Breck.


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Just Read… The Bone Keeper, by Luca Veste


What if the figure that haunted your nightmares as child, the myth of the man in the woods, was real?
He’ll slice your flesh. 
Your bones he’ll keep.
Twenty years ago, four teenagers went exploring in the local woods, trying to find to the supposed home of The Bone Keeper. Only three returned. 
Now, a woman is found wandering the streets of Liverpool, horrifically injured, claiming to have fled the Bone Keeper.  Investigating officer DC Louise Henderson must convince sceptical colleagues that this urban myth might be flesh and blood.  But when a body is unearthed in the woodland the woman has fled from, the case takes on a much darker tone. 

The disappeared have been found. And their killer is watching every move the police make.

This is no ordinary police procedural. Not with the Bone Keeper as the antagonist. The creature that kids sang about; the creature that could very well be real. The woman found wandering the streets has no real recollection of events, but she is sure of one thing, the Bone Keeper took her.

Despite her colleagues assigning that assertion to shock, DC Louise Henderson is not so sure. And with her own secretive past, you can’t help but think she has had some previous encounter. Was she one of the unnamed teenagers who went looking for the Bone Keeper 20 years ago?

Luca’s standalone has received praise from some big names in crime fiction, including Val McDermid, Martina Cole, Mark Billingham and Chris Brookmyre. And I can see why; it is seriously creepy. In Chris Brookmyre’s own words, ‘An entertainingly nasty piece of work’. It kept me turning the pages until the end, and boy, what a great end it is too.

The Bone Keeper (which has probably the best cover you’ll see this year) is published by Simon & Schuster UK today. Go get a copy. But leave the lights on.

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Just Read… Fighting Monsters, By Rebecca Bradley


24 hours after he walked away from court a free man, cop killer and gang leader Simon Talbot is found murdered. In his possession; the name of a protected witness from his trial. 

For DI Hannah Robbins, it’s a race against time to find Talbot’s killer, and locate the bystander before it’s too late.

But as Hannah delves deeper into the past, she begins to question the integrity of the whole operation.

Where do you turn when you can’t trust the police?

I’m delighted to be part of Rebecca’s blog tour for the launch of her third Nottinghamshire based DI Hannah Robbins novel, Fighting Monsters. I’ve previously reviewed Rebecca’s debut, Shallow Waters here (which is currently free on Kindle at the moment – click here), and the next Hannah Robbins novel, Made to be Broken, here.

With Rebecca’s background, you can count on a feel of authenticity in her police procedurals, and Fighting Monsters is no different. But this is not a story bogged down in technical detail; Rebecca weaves procedure skillfully into the story.

As it says in the book blurb above, Simon Talbot walks from court a free man, much to the surprise of everyone, not least the family of the dead policeman, and his ex-colleagues. In fact, the only person who doesn’t seem surprised is Talbot himself.

Hannah and her team have to entertain all possibilities during the investigation into the murder,  including turning their gaze towards their own. And when more bodies turn up, things get increasingly frustrating for the team.

I enjoyed the story, which is perfectly paced to keep you reading. It was good to be reacquainted with old characters, and a couple of new ones bring an extra dimension. Pasha, for example, is dealing with some unique issues herself, while trying to ingratiate herself with a team who really miss the team-member she’s replacing.

Fighting Monsters was published yesterday (19th February 2018) and whilst it can be read as a standalone, there are some plot lines (and even a named killer) which would be spoilers for Hannah Robbins first two outings, so you may want to pick those up first. And with Shallow Waters currently being free, why wouldn’t you?



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Just Read… This is How it Ends, by Eva Dolan

This is How it Ends

This is how it begins.

With a near-empty building, the inhabitants forced out of their homes by property developers.

With two women: idealistic, impassioned blogger Ella and seasoned campaigner, Molly.

With a body hidden in a lift shaft.

But how will it end?

Once again, Eva Dolan demonstrates she can weave a pretty fine tale, this time with a background of big money forcing out long-term residents of a tower block so that it can be replaced by property that will be way out of their reach.

Molly has taken blogging star, Ella, under her wing, but during a party in the largely empty tower block, she finds herself dragged into something much darker when she finds Ella with the body of a dead man. The police want nothing more than to get Ella out of the picture, so Molly is quickly convinced to help her hide the body. But is everything as it seems?

The story follows Molly and Ella, but also intersperses chapters showing the run-up to the party. These largely travel backwards in time, so I had to think about the date at the top of each chapter to make sure I knew when we were talking about. Not too difficult, but it did make my linear brain do a little work. Don’t let that put you off though.

All in all, this was a great book, very relevant to today (as always with Eva’s books), with some nice twists, and what I felt was a satisfactory (if unexpected!) ending.



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Just Read… The Deaths of December, by Susi Holliday

The Deaths of December

Okay, it’s February, not December, but don’t let that put you off.

It looks like a regular advent calendar.

Until DC Becky Greene starts opening doors . . . and discovers a crime scene behind almost every one.

The police hope it’s a prank. Because if it isn’t, a murderer has just surfaced – someone who’s been killing for twenty years.

But why now? And why has he sent it to this police station?

As the country relaxes into festive cheer, Greene and DS Eddie Carmine must race against time to catch the killer. Because there are four doors left, and four murders will fill them . . .

It’s shaping up to be a deadly little Christmas.

This is Susi Holliday’s first book under her full name, rather than SJI Holliday. We’ve moved away from Banktoun in this Christmas standalone, which really doesn’t need to be read (or in my case, listened to whilst driving around a rainy Wales) at Christmas. And maybe this won’t be a standalone, because Susi has created some cracking characters in DC Becky Greene and DS Eddie Carmine.

Practice makes perfect, right? Well, that is very evident here. I’ve reviewed and enjoyed all of Susi’s previous books, but this really is her best yet. The concept is really very good, and the pace of the story feels just about perfect, with some nice ‘wow’ moments when you realise how some things and people are linked. Simple, yet very cleverly done.

A book is for life, not just Christmas. Right?

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Just Read… Cragside, by LJ Ross


Not read. Listened to.

Are you afraid of the dark..?

After his climactic battle with notorious serial killer The Hacker, DCI Ryan is spending the summer with his fiancée within the grounds of Cragside, a spectacular Bavarian-style mansion surrounded by acres of woodland. When they are invited to attend the staff summer party – a Victorian murder mystery evening – it’s all a joke until the lights go out and an elderly man is found dead. It looks like an unfortunate accident but, as the dead man’s life begins to unfold, Ryan and his team of detectives realise that all is not as it appears.

When a second body is found, terror grips the close-knit community and Ryan must uncover the killer who walks among them, before they strike again…

Murder and mystery are peppered with romance and humour in this fast-paced crime whodunit set amidst the spectacular Northumbrian landscape. 

This is book 6 in the DCI Ryan mystery series, and although there is some backstory here (e.g. The Hacker and the ongoing consequences of dealing with him) it can be read as a standalone.

I enjoyed this book and the narration, by Jonathan Keeble, is spot on. Set in a stately home, there’s a bit of a feel of a classic detective story here, and indeed a number of the characters involved are not necessarily who they portray themselves as.

There are plenty of twists and turns and the story develops nicely. In fact, I’d forgotten the prologue until we were getting towards the end, and of course that was a key part of the tale (not that that snippet will help you solve the murder!).

All in all, a great (and satisfying) read.

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Just Read… Bad Sister, by Sam Carrington



When flames rip through their family home, only teenager Stephanie and her younger brother escape unhurt. Brett always liked to play with fire, but now their dad is dead and someone has to pay the price.


Psychologist Connie Summers wants to help Stephanie rebuild her life. She has a new name, a young son and everything to live for. But when Stephanie receives a letter from someone she’d hoped would never find her, Connie is forced to question what really happened that night. But some truths are better left alone . . .

In this second psychological thriller from Sam Carrington, we’re dealing with both Stephanie and Connie who are trying to escape a past that just doesn’t want to let them go. Stephanie is hiding under a witness protection scheme, with Connie trying to help her deal with the past and adjust to a new life, but when Connie’s own past is thrown glaring into the spotlight, Stephanie wants to be reassigned to someone new. That doesn’t happen, and we soon start to fear for the safety of both characters.

Bad Sister is a character-driven novel that soon draws you in. Well written, plenty of intrigue, and enough twists and turns to keep you off-balance. A great book, and is out in paperback today!

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